Books > Old Books > Mr Midshipman Hornblower (1950)


Page 146

CHAPTER SIX - THE FROGS AND THE LOBSTERS

The hillside was as black with fugitives as it had been when the emigres were fleeing.
`Halt!'
The advance ceased; the line became a double column, and the retreat began again.
`Very creditable,' remarked Edrington.
Hornblower's horse was trying jerkily to pick its way over a carpet of dead and wounded, and he was so busy keeping his seat, and his brain was in such a whirl, that he did not immediately realize that they had topped the last rise, so that before them lay the glittering waters off the estuary. The strip of muddy beach was packed solid with emigres. There were the ships riding at anchor, and there, blessed sight, were the boats swarming towards the shore. It was high time, for already the boldest of the Revolutionary infantry were hovering round the columns, taking long shots into them. Here and there a man fell.
`Close up!' snapped the sergeants, and the files marched on stolidly, leaving the wounded and dead behind them.
The adjutant's horse suddenly snorted and plunged, and then fell first to its knees, and, kicking, to its side, while the freckle-faced adjutant freed his feet from the stirrups and flung himself out of the saddle just in time to escape being pinned underneath.
`Are you hit, Stanley?' asked Edrington.
`No, my lord. All safe and sound,' said the adjutant, brushing at his scarlet coat.
`You won't have to foot it far,' said Edrington. `No need to throw out skirmishers to drive those fellows off. This is where we must make our stand.'
He looked about him, at the fishermen's cottages above the beach, the panic-stricken emigres at the water's edge, and the masses of Revolutionary infantry coming up in pursuit, leaving small enough time for preparation. Some of the redcoats poured into the cottages, appearing a moment later at the windows; it was fortunate that the fishing hamlet

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